Environment loses to economic development in local policy-making

Local environmental policy makers are increasingly losing out to their colleagues involved in economic development, as the government has shifted its focus from green issues to regional growth, according to new research funded by the Economic & Social Research Council.

The study of governance and regulation in local environmental policy making was conducted by researchers at the University of Hull Department of Geography, and was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Prof David Gibbs, co-author of the study says: "There is a new relationship between those who develop policy on the environment and those whose main job it is to attract business and jobs to the locality. But while the Labour government was focused on the environment in some of its early policies, it has more recently sought to give greater emphasis to economic growth and competitiveness. This often means that environmental issues lose out in local debates."

The researchers spoke to a wide range of local councillors, officers, environmental groups and private sector representatives. They concluded that local authorities still had an important role to play in driving and delivering environmental and local economic policies.

They also found that local business played little role in developing environmental policies, except on issues like congestion charging or estuary management, where they perceived they had a direct influence. However, environmental pressure groups, including those fighting to protect local amenities, are influential, especially when they become active in local government.

But the role of the environment in local governance has changed, and not always to the detriment of environmental concerns. "The relationship has become much more complex than it used to be in the early nineties," explains Prof Gibbs. "There seems to be a more holistic approach to urban development, often driven by a public-private partnership or a high-powered tea

Contact: Anna Hinds
Economic & Social Research Council

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